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One of the things I'm actively looking out for are ways to map the data we've been collecting from Leeds Art Crawl, be they on a map or any other methods of visualisation. I used Google Maps on the site as it seemed like the fastest (and simplest) way back then to theme and plot. I've previously looked at OpenStreetMap, Stamen, D3, TileMill, CartoDB, Leaflet.js and a few others whose name escapes me at the moment but they all seemed to involved sometimes complicated setting up and/or hosting it ourselves under circumstances that took much wrangling. They also all seem to be permutations of OSM in some and many ways. Google maps, even though limited in some ways, hosted it for us and allowed some semblance of customising; this was good enough for me.

6 months later and I've got some free time at 4am so I'm wandering back to these sources to see if I've missed anything. Lo and behold!

LeedsArtCrawl_071014 on Dotspotting

Why haven't I spotted, well, Dotspotting before?!

I'm loving the export functions. The thing is, I'm creating zines from Leeds Art Crawl as a sort of archival and tour map of public / found art in the city. One of the things that is also created from this project is a map complete with LAT/LNG coordinates (the Google Map I was yapping about earlier) which spits out a JSON feed that updates itself when new locations of art gets added to the site.

Currently, creating the art map for the zine has been done manually; screenshots, illustration, cropping images etc, and this is obviously not ideal so Dotspotting's export function is very attractive to me. I'm having to create the next issue soon so will have to see if this relationship works out.

Anyway, as you can see, the map above by Dotspotting is lovely. Here's the same map using our own embedding code below.

Two completely different-looking maps using the same data. Quick run through of pros and cons for both - Dotspotting map looks cluttered but to be fair, I chose to display the images like that. I made the thumbnails smaller but the clutter remained as obstructions on road names except now you can't see the art. Google Maps allowed me to have an interstitial between a visual clue and a popup that displayed the art of that location, at a decent legible size, when you click on it.

By the way, when you get stuck having clicked on an art in Dotspotting, right-click and choose, "Back" to go back to the map view.

Dotspotting has a myriad of wonderful styles to choose from and the flexible import function of many formats is great though they don't accept JSON feeds. I've had to manually convert our JSON feed into CSV for it to accept the data. Even then, I've had to delete all data that had no location attached to them ("0" in the LAT/LNG field) since the uploader wouldn't accept the data as it was without me manually deleting the offensive data, one at a time (no batch delete where I've looked) on the site, after uploading it. Google Maps have a limited theme choice unless you sit down and create your own, which can take some time reading through the documentation for options. In fact, if I recall, some of the options were deprecated and should probably not be used.

Finally, both maps are contained within iFrames. This renders problem when links are clicked as entire sites will load in them! I should probably disable this or open the links away from the iFrame for our embedded map. Hopefully, the Time Faerie will visit sometime soon so I can fix this issue :}

Oh, one last thing, maybe. For large images of maps in a myriad of themes, Stamen has made a lovely tool for doing just the thing. Examples below. Not sure why the watercolour one is a little iffy.

If you want good, clean and printable maps, try Field Papers, designed for printing and writing on in real life.
Or if you're really serious about customisation, try Map Stack for the easiest tweaking experience I've ever had for maps on the web. All courtesy of Stamen.